CLOSE

WWI Centennial: Gas Attack at Ypres

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 179th installment in the series.

April 22, 1915: Gas Attack at Ypres

At 5pm on April 22, 1915, following a German artillery bombardment, French soldiers holding the northern face of the Ypres salient saw a greenish-yellow cloud drifting towards them from the enemy trenches along a roughly four-mile-long stretch of the front.

 As the cloud reached their positions the soldiers  — mostly middle-aged militia volunteers in the 87th Territorial Division and North African colonial troops in the Algerian 45th Division  — began coughing violently and gasping for air, tears and mucus streaming down their faces, their lungs burning, accompanied by retching and dry heaving. Tearing at their own throats and coughing up blood, some sought refuge at the bottom of their trenches but merely hurried to their doom, as chlorine gas is heavier than air.

 

Unsurprisingly, after a few minutes of this the French soldiers fled their trenches in terror. Harold Peat, a Canadian private in reserve in the eastern part of the salient, witnessed the first moments of this new horror in war:

In the far distance we saw a cloud rise as though from the earth. It was a greeny-red color, and increased in volume as it rolled forward. It was like a mist rising, and yet it hugged the ground, rose five or six feet, and penetrated to every crevice and dip in the ground. We could not tell what it was. Suddenly from out the mist we men in reserves saw movement. Coming towards us, running as though Hell as it really was had been let loose behind them, were the black troops from Northern Africa. Poor devils, I do not blame them. It was enough to make any man run. 

Another Canadian soldier in the front line, Reginald Grant, painted a similar picture:

The line trembled from one end to the other, as the Algerian troops immediately on our left, jumped out of their trenches, falling as they ran. The whole thing seemed absolutely incomprehensible until I got a whiff of the gas. They ran like men possessed, gasping, choking, blinded and dropping with suffocation. They could hardly be blamed... The buttons on our uniforms were tinged yellow and green from the gas, so virulent was the poison.

The gas attack marked the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres, which would last until May 25, 1915, and like the First Battle of Ypres include several distinct phases, each a battle in its own right: the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge from April 22-23; the Battle of St. Julien from April 24-May 4; the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge from May 8-13; and the Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge from May 24-25. Over this period the Allies suffered around 70,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action, while the Germans lost about half that number.

Gravenstafel Ridge 

Ypres is located at the bottom of a shallow basin, surrounded by plains gently rising to a semicircle of low hills to the north, east, and south, dotted with forests, lakes, and villages. As the names of the individual battles indicate, the Second Battle of Ypres was largely a struggle for control of some of these hills, as well as the village of St. Julien a few miles northeast of Ypres. 

Short on shells and looking for a new way to soften up enemy defenses, on the advice of the chemist Fritz Haber the Germans brought up thousands of cylinders of chlorine gas, which was released over the top of the trenches by long tubes (image below), relying on the wind to carry it over the enemy lines. The Allies had received reports about these plans in early April but dismissed them as psychological warfare or rumors.

By the end of the first day the chlorine gas had killed around 6,000 French soldiers and sent the rest fleeing for safety, leaving a four-mile-wide gap in the Allied line, with no defenders standing between the Germans and Ypres. From here a concerted German push might have unraveled the whole Western Front, clearing the way to the French ports on the English Channel and thus cutting off British supplies the elusive goal of the First Battle of Ypres.

Unsure how effective the new weapon really was, as dusk approached the German 46th Reserve, 51st Reserve, and 52nd Reserve Divisions emerged from their trenches and cautiously advanced behind the deadly cloud  then were stunned to find the French trenches completely abandoned, or filled with dead and dying soldiers, the latter incapacitated by the gas. By nightfall the Germans had pushed forward about three miles, reaching the village of Gravenstafel and taking a nearby ridge. To the south they advanced within two miles of Ypres now transformed into an inferno by their bombardment. 

Ypres in Flames

The burning city lit up the night sky for miles around, providing a spectacular backdrop to the brutal battle unfolding on its outskirts. William Robinson, an American volunteer driver with the British Expeditionary Force, described Ypres under shellfire: "It seemed as though the whole city was being torn from its very foundations, so terrible was the din. Wagons, horses, autos, bicycles, were piled up everywhere. Men, women, and children, soldiers and civilians, were lying dead and dying in every street." Peat recalled the scene as viewed from outside the city:

The night of April twenty-second is one that I can never forget. It was frightful, yes. Yet there was a grandeur in the appalling intensity of living, and the appalling intensity of death as it surrounded us. The German shells rose and burst behind us. They made the Yser Canal a stream of molten glory. Shells fell in the city, and split the darkness of the heavens in the early night hours. Later the moon rose in a splendor of spring-time. Straight behind the tower of the great cathedral it rose and shone down on a bloody earth. Suddenly the grand old Cloth Hall burst into flames. The spikes of fire rose and fell and rose again. Showers of sparks went upward. A pall of smoke would form and cloud the moon, waver, break and pass. There was the mutter and rumble and roar of great guns. There was the groan of wounded and the gasp of dying. It was glorious. It was terrible. It was inspiring. Through an inferno of destruction and death, of murder and horror, we lived because we must.

Canadians Save the Day

The poison gas had punched a huge hole in the Allied line but it wasn't totally abandoned: to the east the neighboring trenches were still held by the Canadian First Division, who saw the Germans advancing virtually unopposed on their left flank and sprang into action. Indeed these mostly untried soldiers made one of the most desperate and gallant defenses of the whole war, extending their line west to fill the gap and holding off an enemy force many times larger than themselves through sheer stubbornness and endurance.

The Canadians were aided by the quick thinking of a chemist, Lieutenant Colonel George Nasmith, and a medical officer, Captain Francis Alexander Scrimger, who deduced that the Germans were using chlorine gas and improvised a simple, if disgusting, countermeasure: they advised the men to hold handkerchiefs soaked in urine over their noses and mouths, because the ammonia in the urine would help neutralize the chlorine. On the other hand they also had to contend with the defective Ross rifle, notorious for jamming when it heated up from repeat firing. 

Armed with these makeshift gasmasks and faulty rifles, the Canadians on the left end of the line hurled themselves at the advancing Germans at Gravenstafel. Because the phone lines had been cut by the German bombardment the officers on the scene had no idea where their French allies were or how many enemy troops they were facing, which may explain their decision to attack an enemy force of over 10,000 men with just 1,500 men supported by field artillery. Incredibly, it worked: at 11:45pm the battalion of Canadian Highlanders stormed the Germans hastily dug trenches in nearby Kitchener's Wood, a forest about two miles northeast of Ypres, and sent the surprised enemy reeling back. Predictably the Highlanders suffered huge numbers of casualties in this savage combat. One soldier recalled:

Pressing on in the wood the struggle became a dreadful hand-to-hand conflict; we fought in clumps and batches, and the living struggled over the bodies of the dead and dying. At the height of the conflict, while we were steadily driving the Germans before us, the moon burst out The clashing bayonets flashed like quicksilver, and faces were lit up as by limelight.

 The Canadian Highlanders had lost about two thirds of their original force, but they halted the German advance long enough for more troops from the First Canadian Division to join the fight. At 5:45am the Canadian 1st and 4th Battalions attacked the German defenses on Mauser's Ridge west of Kitchener's Wood, once again crossing mostly open ground in front of vigilant enemy troops, now well entrenched. The result was a bloodbath, as the Germans opened up on the advancing Canadians with field artillery, machine guns and massed rifle fire. But the Canadians dug in and more British troops were arriving as the Allied commanders scrambled to close the gap in their lines. One Canadian officer, Frederic Curry, described the surreal scene as the reserves raced to take up their positions:

As we continued northward the throbbing of distant gunfire became plainer, and a strange flickering could be seen in the morning sky. This strange light, caused by the flash of the guns and the flares or illuminating fuzees shot up by the infantry, resembled nothing so much as our own Aurora Borealis, and we were not surprised to find, a little later, that our men had already nicknamed them the "Northern Lights." 

The Canadians had succeeded in blunting the enemy offensive by sheer bluff, as their audacious counterattacks deceived the Germans into thinking they faced more Allied troops than they really did. By noon on April 23 the Allied defensive line was reforming but there were a mere ten Canadian battalions facing over 50 German battalions. 

Nonetheless British Expeditionary Force commander Sir John French now ordered another attack on Mauser's Ridge north of Ypres on the afternoon of April 23. This turned out to be completely futile, as the British artillery bombardment alerted the Germans to the coming assault (before running out of ammunition at the critical moment), while promised support from neighboring French units failed to materialize. Once again the casualty list was huge. Peat recalled the huge losses inflicted by German machine guns and rifles as the Canadians advanced over open ground: "Out of the seven hundred and fifty of us who advanced, a little over two hundred and fifty gained the German trench; and of that number twenty-five or more fell dead as soon as they reached the enemy." After this attack failed, the exhausted British troops dug in, scrounged for food, and tried to get some sleep. But the battle was only beginning.

St. Julien

The British were about to get their own taste of gas. On April 24 around 4am the Germans unleashed another cloud of chlorine gas against the First Canadian Division and British 28th Division holding the line around the village of St. Julien. The Canadians and British tried to use handkerchiefs soaked in urine as before, but the chlorine gas was too concentrated this time. 

Now Canadian and British soldiers could witness the effects of chlorine gas up close. Even before the gas reached their trenches its impact was all too clear, according to a Canadian officer, J.A. Currie, who observed "the deadly wall of chlorine gas which rolled slowly over the ground turning the budding leaves of the trees, the spring flowers and the grass a sickly white." When it hit the trenches it could drive men mad, according to a Scottish officer, Patrick McCoy, who left a vivid description of a gas attack around this time: 

I saw one man near me turn a sickly greenish-yellow... His eyes began to bulge from his head; froth filled his mouth and hung from his lips. He began tearing at his throat. The air wouldn't go into his lungs. He fell and rolled over and over, gasping and crying out while with his nails he tore open his throat, even wrenched out his windpipe. Then his chest heaved a time or two, and he lay still. Death had brought its blessed relief.

Death wasn't always instantaneous, however. Curry later saw gas casualties slowly dying at a field hospital, beyond any medical care: "Reeking with chlorine, their faces a livid purple or an even ghastlier green, they lay there on the stretchers, each with a little bowl beside him, coughing his life away." Many observers remarked on the strange colors of gas victims skin. A British officer, Bruce Bairnsfather, remembered: "Poor fellows, their features were distorted and their faces livid. Blood-tainted froth clung to their lips. Their skins were mottled blue and white. They were a heartbreaking sight to behold." However some soldiers who received a mild dose of gas were able to recover (below, British troops who were gassed at Ypres).

 

The Allies were already learning strategies to deal with poison gas. At St. Julien, for example, some men managed to avoid the worst effects by standing up on top of the trench parapet, correctly assuming the Germans would hang back far behind the gas cloud, the distance making it harder to hit their targets; they then returned to the trench once the cloud had passed. So the gas failed to force the Canadians to retreat, and this time around the advancing Germans were surprised to encounter a hail of bullets from machine guns and rifles as they approached the enemy trenches (the Canadian troops had to form teams to load their maddeningly uncooperative Ross rifles). Currie described the carnage: "The men waited till the Germans emerged from their trenches three or four deep to charge. Then our whistles blew, and hundreds of them were cut down and piled on top of each other before they broke and ran back to their trenches. One machine gun got about 200 of them." However the Germans now resorted to huge artillery bombardments followed by a massive infantry attack and eventually forced the Canadians to withdraw, giving up St. Julien shortly after noon on April 24. With some Canadian brigades in danger of being surrounded, the German bombardment continued into the night, according to Currie:

As the night closed down the heavens were lit with the German flares and the lurid flashes from their guns. The German flares crossed each other in the heavens behind us. In our left rear, and all around to the right rear, I could see the angry red flashes of the thousands of guns they were directing against our devoted defenders. Almost every calibre of gun was being used against us, from the great seventeen inch Austrian siege mortars they were firing at Ypres and Poperinghe behind us, to the nine, seven, six, five, four and three-inch high explosive shells that were filling the air with their fiendish notes.

Over the next two days the Canadians formed a new defensive line and mounted a series of counterattacks aiming to drive the Germans out of St. Julien, briefly succeeding in capturing some German trenches, but suffered so many casualties that they were unable to hold the positions. A gap remained on the Canadian left, where the Germans had pushed past St. Julien, threatening a breakthrough. On April 24-25 massive German assaults around the village again forced the Canadians make strategic withdrawals while waiting for desperately needed British reinforcements. Bairnsfather, one of the reinforcements, remembered marching to their relief in miserable weather:

We were marching in pouring rain and darkness down a muddy, mangled road, shattered poplar trees sticking up in black streaks on either side. Crash after crash, shells were falling and exploding all around us, and behind the burning city. The road took a turn. We marched for a short time parallel to now distant Ypres. Through the charred skeleton wrecks of houses one caught glimpses of the yellow flames mounting to the sky. We passed over the Yser Canal, dirty, dark and stagnant, reflecting the yellow glow of the flames. On our left was a church and graveyard, both blown to a thousand pieces. Tombstones lying about and sticking up at odd angles all over the torn-up ground. I guided my section a little to one side to avoid a dead horse lying across the road. The noise of shrapnel bursting about us only ceased occasionally, making way for ghastly, ominous silences. And the rain kept pouring down.

When they arrived Bairnsfather's unit was plunged directly into battle:

Bullets were flying through the air in all directions. Ahead, in the semi-darkness, I could just see the forms of men running out into the fields on either side of the road in extended order, and beyond them a continuous heavy crackling of rifle-fire showed me the main direction of the attack. The German machine guns were now busy, and sent sprays of bullets flicking up the ground all round us. Lying behind a slight fold in the ground we saw them whisking through the grass, three or four inches over our heads. 

By April 25 British troops had relieved the beleaguered Canadians, now down to a fraction of their original strength, and once again established a more or less coherent defensive line. But the Germans still held a huge chunk of formerly Allied territory in the salient, and continued pressing their attacks. On April 26-27 ambitious counterattacks by French troops and fresh troops from the Indian Lahore Division failed utterly because the French didn't commit enough men to the attack; the Indian troops charged bravely but the attack was shattered by German firepower. In a fit of pique, BEF commander Sir John French took out his frustration on General Horace Smith-Dorrien, who was in charge of the operation, by relieving him of command but the simple fact was two colonial divisions were practically destroyed, and the BEF had no choice but to withdraw to a new, shorter line outside Ypres.

Outrage   

Needless to say public opinion in Allied countries was outraged by Germanys use of poison gas, banned by the Hague conventions of the previous two decades. After massacres of Belgian civilians, the burning of Louvain and the Cathedral of Reims, the bombardment of British cities from the sea and air, and unrestricted U-boat warfare, the decision to employ poison gas seemed to be the final proof of German barbarism and frightfulness. 

However there was also general recognition that now the Allies would have to employ the shocking new weapon as well, or risk defeat. The British, French, and Russian governments immediately put scientists to work researching chemical weapons of their own. On April 25, an anonymous British nurse wrote a sardonic entry in her diary: "The beasts of Germans laid out a whole trench full of Zouaves with chlorine gas. Of course every one is busy finding out how we can go one better now." A German officer made the same prediction: "Of course, the entire world will rage about it first and then imitate us." 

Shellshock 

By this time military and medical authorities were beginning to notice a troubling phenomenon, as seemingly fit young men without visible injuries were incapacitated by what appeared to be a paralyzing nervous disorder. As more and more cases were observed, it became known as shellshock. At first the general inclination was to brand soldiers suffering from shellshock as cowards and punish them with courts martial followed by prison or even execution. However these attitudes softened somewhat when it became clear the mental illness was profound and involuntary; it would later be clinically described as post-traumatic stress disorder. One German psychiatrist described a soldier who had been buried alive for two hours on May 3, 1915: 

When admitted to hospital, B. was completely disorientated and confused and motorically very restless. B. is terrified by every noise, when brought to this ward, he started whining and screaming. Lying in his bed he was apparently still frightened, he crept under the duvet as if looking for cover against shells. During the night, B. was very restless and nervous, he was screaming and crying, pushing his way out of bed, hiding away and trying to leave the room. According to his wife's statement, B. has always been a quiet, sensible and industrious person without any psychotic attitudes whatsoever. 

Two weeks later the same British nursing sister noted in her diary: "Just admitted a gunner suffering from shock alone  no wound completely knocked out; he can't tell you his name, or stand, or even sit up, but just shivers and shudders." And around this time an Englishwoman, Helen Mackay, volunteering as a nurse in a French hospital, described several of her patients: 

The number 18 is very bad. He does not know any one any more. He lies against a heap of cushions, his knees drawn up almost to his chin, his eyes wide open all the time, his hands picking at the covers... There is a boy who talks about riding over everything. He keeps saying, "We rode right over them, we rode right over them." There is another who keeps crying, "Oh, no, not that! Oh, no, not that!"

The mental illness was perhaps most perplexing and infuriating to the afflicted soldiers themselves. In January 1915 a German soldier, Franz Mller, wrote home from a military hospital: 

Due to the huge exertions of the last three days in particular, when our trench was literally turned upside down by heavy enemy artillery, I have developed a mental disease. I am up for just a few hours a day, for this bloody illness has affected my innocent legs. The pain and paralysis in my legs and in my right arm make it very difficult to move. Just imagine the giant of 92 kg trudging along like a crab between beds, chairs, and tables. It is utter mockery! 

Unfortunately shellshock could be triggered by loud sounds and especially explosions, which were of course inescapable on the Western Front, even at military hospitals miles behind the lines. Edward Casey, an Irish soldier in the British Army, recalled his own bout with shellshock: 

... still the sound of guns firing [could be heard]. Off I went again. I was told that I jumped out of bed and tried to get out of the window, but I felt strong hands around my shoulders [and] I felt a prick in my arm, and [fell into a deep] sleep again. I was told by the Doctor that for some weeks I lay in a state of shock. I had lost my memory, did not know who I was [or] what Regiment I belonged to. I had nightmares, and one night I walked out of the ward door, went to the yard (it was freezing night) [and] I climbed the gutter pipe... I was very worried at the thought of being confined to a mad House. 

See the previous installment or all entries.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
entertainment
25 Amazing Netflix Hacks to Enhance Your Viewing Experience
iStock
iStock

We know you love watching the hottest movies and TV shows on Netflix, but are you getting the most out of the streaming service? If you want to binge-watch like a pro, any—or all—of these amazing hacks can help.

1. USE CATEGORY CODES TO FIND WHAT YOU REALLY WANT.

Watching Netflix on a smartphone
iStock

If you feel like you’re seeing the same movies and TV shows on your Netflix homepage again and again, that's because the streaming company caters its recommendations to your taste through a highly specific algorithm. But if you’re in the mood for something different, Netflix breaks down each movie and TV show into more than 76,000 hidden categories, which are as broad as "Action & Adventure” or as detailed as “Critically-Acclaimed Witty Movies from the 1930s."

You can find category codes within the Netflix URL itself: The last four numbers in the web address correspond to each category code. It looks something like this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/1365. So if you want “Exciting B-Horror Movies,” type in “2852” at the end of the URL (replacing the 1365 in the example)

. Do you want to find something in “Feel-Good Sports Movies For Ages 8 to 10?” That’s “855.” “Visually-Striking Movies For Ages 5 to 7?” Type in “2851” to unlock the category.

Check out a very extensive list of Netflix category codes here.

2. GET THE SUPER NETFLIX EXTENSION FOR BETTER VIDEO QUALITY.

If you’re watching Netflix via the Google Chrome browser, there’s a free extension called Super Netflix that can enhance your viewing experience. Once installed, the extension allows you to pick your video streaming quality instead of Netflix automatically doing it for you. This is ideal if you want the best video quality at home on your Wi-Fi connection, or if you want to reduce it on the go to save your data.

Super Netflix can also automatically skip TV show intros, blur plot descriptions and image thumbnails to prevent spoilers, enhance video brightness and color contrast, and speed up the video (just in case you want to binge-watch Stranger Things as quickly as you can).

3. MAKE EXTRA ROOM ON YOUR HOME SCREEN.

From American Vandal to Wormwood, Netflix Originals are highly entertaining and definitely worth watching. But sometimes you want to watch something that isn't produced by the streaming service. No Netflix Originals is a Google Chrome extension that does exactly what its name suggests: removes all Netflix Originals from your home screen, so you can see everything else Netflix has to offer.

4. DISABLE THE DREADED "ARE YOU STILL WATCHING?" PROMPT.

Are you tired of hitting that “Next Episode” button when you’re binge-watching a new TV show? The Never Ending Netflix Chrome extension puts an end to that inconvenience. After you install it, the extension allows you to skip titles sequences, automatically play the next episode, and disables the dreaded “Are You Still Watching?” prompt that pops up every couple of hours. The extension even lets you search Netflix by genre.

5. ADD NOTES TO YOUR FAVORITE TITLES.

Created by the good people at Lifehacker, Flix Plus is a Chrome extension that allows you to completely customize your Netflix viewing experience. It comes with 18 built-in customization settings, such as hiding spoiler descriptions and images, disabling a shrinking screen during end credits, and pinning your “My List” page to the top of the home screen. But the best feature is the ability to add notes to titles. Now you can add the reason why you added Wild Wild Country to your list or add a note about when Disney’s The Jungle Book will expire from the streaming service.

6. SEARCH HIDDEN CATEGORIES RIGHT FROM THE HOME SCREEN.

FindFlix: Netflix Secret Category Finder is a Google Chrome extension or Firefox add-on that allows you to search through all of the hidden category codes without leaving Netflix itself, instead of scrolling through a never-ending list on a separate website. Once installed, just search for a genre or whatever you’re in the mood to watch like “movies starring Sean Connery” or “movies for children between ages 2 and 4 years old.”

7. HOST A NETFLIX PARTY FOR ALL YOUR FRIENDS.

Do you want to watch BoJack Horseman with your significant other, but they are on the other side of the country? Don’t worry, Netflix Party has got your back! It's a handy Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix with anyone, even if they’re not in the same room, city, or even state.

After you install the extension, you can create a shareable link of what’s on Netflix. The link opens to the exact movie or TV show you’re watching at that moment, so you can watch together at the same time and perfectly synced. It even comes with a group chat feature, so you can comment on the action on the screen. Netflix Party is perfect for people in long-distance relationships, so you’ll never be accused of “Netflix Cheating” again.

In addition, if you’d like to take the party on the road, use Rabbit for Android and iOS. It’s a platform that allows you to watch Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, YouTube, or just about any video streaming platform with your friends via mobile app or Chrome extension. You can even message or video chat with each other while you’re watching an episode of Ozark on the go!

8. AUTOMATICALLY SKIP OVER EVERY SHOW'S INTRO.

Are you sick of clicking the “Skip Intro” button when you’re watching a TV show on Netflix? SkipFlix is a handy Chrome extension that skips all intros automatically, so you don’t have to. Now you can spend more time binge-watching The Crown instead of fiddling with a mouse.

9. WATCH IN THE HIGHEST QUALITY HD POSSIBLE.

While web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have a lot of useful extensions and add-ons, respectively, they're not the best browsers for streaming Netflix in the highest quality HD possible. Chrome (on Mac and Windows), Firefox, and Opera tap out streaming resolution at 720 pixels, while browsers like Apple’s Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Edge browsers delivers Netflix in full 1080 pixels.

It’s also important to consider your Wi-Fi connection. Netflix recommends at least 5.0 megabits per second download speed for HD quality. (For more helpful tips, here are some simple ways to boost your home Wi-Fi network.)

10. SEE A MOVIE'S DROP-OFF RATE BEFORE YOU START IT.

Enhancer by Simkl is a wonderful Google Chrome extension that works over multiple streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll. Once you install it and register an account, you can hover your computer’s cursor over any title to reveal its IMDb score, TV rank, and even its drop-off rate—which means you can now see how many others stopped watching midway through a movie or TV show. And since it syncs with other streaming services, you can track your viewing habits across multiple services.

11. SORT MOVIES BY YEAR.

While Netflix features the ability to sort movies and TV shows by genre, there’s a simple hack that can also sort chronologically by year (at least in a web browser). Just go to a category page like horror, drama, or comedy and look for a small box with four dots inside on the upper right hand side of the page. It will then expand the “Suggestions for You” dropdown menu, which gives you the option to sort by year of release with the most recent titles at the top of the page and the older ones at the bottom. It can even sort in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order.  

12. SAVE ON YOUR SUBSCRIPTION FEE WITH DISCOUNT GIFT CARDS.

Did you know you could pay your monthly bill with a Netflix gift card? Raise.com is a service where you can buy or sell gift cards for retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid at a deep discount. If you buy one for, let’s say Rite Aid, at a 12 percent discount, you could then buy a Netflix gift card in-store to save money on your monthly bill. So if you buy a $100 Netflix gift card from Rite Aid, it would only cost you $88, which you could turnaround to save 12 percent on your Netflix bill, too.

In addition, you can even buy Netflix gift cards directly from Raise.com at a discount, but the savings won’t be as deep as ones from a retailer.

13. GET EASY ACCESS TO NON-NETFLIX REVIEWS.

While Netflix has its own user-generated rating system (thumbs up/thumbs down), you can use a trusty Google Chrome extension called RateFlix to add ratings from other rating aggregates. Once installed, IMDb ratings, “Rotten” or “Fresh” percentages, and Metacritic scores will appear in the movie's description.

14. BROWSE BY MICRO-GENRE, OR WHAT'S EXPIRING SOON.

So now that you know all about Netflix’s secret categories and codes, you have to admit that more than 76,000 micro-genres is far too many to remember. Luckily, Super Browse takes the most popular categories and makes it easy to navigate and scroll through the Netflix interface itself. Just click the genre you’d like to browse and the handy Google Chrome extension will do the rest. You can even browse by what’s new to Netflix and what’s expiring soon.

15. ROTATE THE VIDEO SO THAT BINGE-WATCHING IN BED ISN'T A LITERAL PAIN IN THE NECK.

This one is a game-changer! Instead of craning your neck to binge-watch Marvel’s Daredevil while lying down, Netflix Flip is a Chrome extension that will flip the video 90 degrees on your computer screen, so you can comfortably watch Netflix in bed. No more turning your laptop on its side to get a better viewing angle—Netflix Flip will do it for you.

16. BINGE-WATCH WHILE YOU WORK.

Sometimes you just want something playing in the background while you’re working on a spreadsheet, but it’s tough to always have video playing when there are other windows taking up space on your desktop. However, there’s a way to always have Netflix running in its own window that’s floating above everything else, if you watch it in a Helium web browser on a Mac.

Helium is a browser that keeps media playing in a transparent “floating” window that will never get lost behind other windows, even during task-switching. You can still click, double-click, drag, and scroll behind Helium and never interact with the micro-browser itself. It’s ideal for watching Netflix while working ... not that you would ever do that, of course.

17. FOCUS ON "WHAT'S NEW."

When it comes to new and old titles, Netflix is always adding to and subtracting from its catalog. To stay updated, you should take advantage of services like JustWatch or WhatsNewonNetflix.com to see all the great movies and TV shows that will appear or go away on Netflix.

18. VOLUNTEER TO TEST NEW FEATURES BEFORE THEY BECOME PUBLIC.

Do you want to be the first to try out new features from Netflix? The streaming service allows you to opt-in with “test participation,” which is where new features—such as new interfaces, new rating systems, and pre-roll trailers—are first rolled out. If you want to give it a shot, go to “Accounts,” then “Settings,” and look for the “Test Participation” toggle. Turn it on if you want to try the latest and greatest features from Netflix before everyone else.

19. ENABLE AUDIO DESCRIPTIONS SO THAT YOU DON'T MISS A THING.

If you can’t keep your eyes on a TV screen or mobile device, but still want to enjoy Netflix, there’s a handy little category hidden deep inside of the streaming service called “Audio Description” that offers narration explaining what the characters are doing on the screen. This hidden feature essentially turns your favorite movies and TV shows into an audiobook or a podcast.

It's chiefly seen on Netflix originals, but it’s perfect for anyone who wants to follow along with the latest episode of 13 Reasons Why or Grace and Frankie while taking a walk in the park.

20. CLEAR OUT YOUR “CONTINUE WATCHING” QUEUE.

Laptop open to Netflix in a cafe
iStock

Over time, your “Continue Watching” queue can get overrun with half-watched Adam Sandler movies and episodes of The Ranch. (We're not judging.) You know you’re never going to finish Bright, so clear out your queue to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.

Go to “Account,” and then under “My Profiles” you’ll see an option for “Viewing Activity.” This is where Netflix stores everything you’ve ever watched on the streaming service. Simply click the “X” on anything you’d like to leave behind and Netflix will adjust your queue accordingly. And now you have more time for the things you actually want to watch.

This is also the method to use if you want to delete your Saturday afternoon binge-watching session of Fuller House before the other people on your Netflix account find out. (Again, we're not judging.)

21. STREAM IN 4K.

Streaming video in 1080p is so 2017; Netflix makes it possible to stream in full 4K resolution (2160p) with the streaming service adding new titles available in Ultra HD. If you meet all the requirements, like owning an Ultra HD TV, high-speed Internet (about 25 megabits per second downloads), and Premium subscription ($13.99 a month), you can access all of Netflix’s 4K content. Just type 4K or UltraHD into the search box to see all the titles available.

Please note, not every title on Netflix is presented in 4K, but it does offer more than 200 popular titles, including Alias Grace, Ugly Delicious, Chef’s Table, Okja, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Just be aware that this can eat through your data plan: Netflix estimates that UltraHD uses 7 GB an hour.

22. CREATE DIFFERENT PROFILES FOR YOUR MANY CONTENT-CONSUMING PERSONALITIES.

Every Netflix account comes with five profiles for your friends and family to use, but if you don’t want to give out your password, you could always use those spare profiles for any occasion. Since Netflix recommends things you might like based on each specific profile's viewing habits, you can “train” it for your mood or special event.

For example: You can create a profile that’s entirely filled with horror movies and TV shows for a Halloween party, and another with rom-coms for date night for some real “Netflix and Chill.”

23. SET PARENTAL CONTROLS.

If you have children and want them to enjoy Netflix, but not its mature content, you can set up a special four-digit PIN code that will restrict what they can and cannot access. Go to “Account” (which should open up a web browser) and under “Setting,” you’ll find “Parental Controls.” Once you click the link, you’ll be prompted to enter the account's password and then be asked to create a special PIN code.

Afterwards, you’ll be asked to set the age restriction for “Little Kids” all the way up to “Adults.” If your child tries to access something that’s too mature, a prompt will appear on the screen asking for the PIN code. And since the child wouldn’t know the code, he or she won't be able to watch Disjointed or Hot Girls Wanted.

24. DOWNLOAD TITLES FOR OFFLINE VIEWING.

If you want to watch Netflix, but know that you'll be offline for a good period of time—like on a cross-country flight—you can simply download the title to your Android, iOS, or Windows 10 device and watch it offline with the download feature. You can even download movies and TV shows in standard or high definition.

However, not every title available on the streaming service is available for download. Netflix has a category called “Available for Download,” which is located under the menu option, where you can see all of the titles that are available to watch offline. Just look for the download icon and remember to download the desired titles before you lose your internet connection. Also, if you have an Android device, you can download more titles with the extra space provided on an SD card.

25. REQUEST THAT YOUR FAVORITE (CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE) TITLES BE ADDED.

Friends watching a movie together on a laptop
iStock

Netflix doesn’t have every title ever produced, and the titles they do have can leave on short notice as licensing deals expire. But if there’s something you want to watch and it never seems to be part of the streaming service’s ever-changing lineup, just ask Netflix directly for a movie or TV show and they might add it.

It might be a long shot, but you can actually request a new title for streaming. You can even call or start a live chat with Netflix to make a request. It just goes to show that the company is always on the lookout for more streaming content.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
CNN
arrow
entertainment
Everything That's Leaving Netflix in June
CNN
CNN

There’s a whole slew of new movies, TV shows, and specials arriving to Netflix in June, which means that it’s time to get rid of some beloved-but-aging titles. If you’ve been dying to binge-watch Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, you’d better hurry: seasons one through eight will disappear on June 16. Men in Black, My Left Foot, While You Were Sleeping, The Great Gatsby, and On Golden Pond will be waving bye-bye as well, so you’d better hurry up and start streaming. Here’s a list of everything that’s leaving Netflix in June.

JUNE 1, 2018

50 First Dates
8 Mile
Gridiron Gang
J. Edgar
Men in Black
My Left Foot
Neerja
Out of the Dark
Princess Kaiulani
The Angry Birds Movie
The Brothers Grimm
The Spy Next Door
The Young Victoria
Training Day
Untraceable
Vice
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy
While You Were Sleeping

JUNE 2, 2018

Shark Men: Season 3

JUNE 8, 2018

Grace of Monaco

JUNE 9, 2018

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

JUNE 10, 2018

Bonnie and Clyde

JUNE 15, 2018

Drillbit Taylor
Naz & Maalik
The Giver
The Great Gatsby
Underdogs

JUNE 16, 2018

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Seasons 1-8
Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of
Curious George
Super

JUNE 18, 2018

Cedar Cove: Seasons 1-3

JUNE 20, 2018

Cake

JUNE 21, 2018

Baby Daddy: Seasons 1-6

JUNE 22, 2018

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

JUNE 23, 2018

Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle

JUNE 25, 2018

Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War

JUNE 26, 2018

Alpha and Omega

JUNE 29, 2018

Bad Grandpa .5

JUNE 30, 2018

On Golden Pond

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios